Performativity and collapse of context in an educational space. Week 2

Performativity and collapse of context. Source: Pinterest

I have been watching with interest how open, educational spaces might affect those working within them. As I’m sure many teachers do, when a student on a course, I always think about how I could apply the content, methodology and theory I am learning to my practice. It was while I was working through the blogs posted on Education and Digital Culture that Judith Butler’s concept of ‘performativity’ became increasingly pertinent to me. She discusses how we perform our identity with the world around us largely in relation to each other. She talks about identity being fluid because one performs different identities in different contexts and how identities are constructed around those respective contexts (Ruitenburg 2007).

Unsurprisingly, there is a high usage of social media on this course. What is surprising to me is that many are using personal and professional social media accounts in an educational context. It’s been interesting to watch how this plays out and how there is a collapse of context (boyd 2002) of our class on multiple, open, online platforms. We are exposed to parts of each other we wouldn’t normally see in a face-to-face class. We are each performing parts of ourselves online with identities that are already established (for example our political/social identities) and then contributing to our ‘digital culture’ identities which are works in progress. Thereby creating new identities together because performativity is not a single action but a series of actions or ‘the cumulative  power of repeated speech’ (Ruitenburg 2007, p 263).

The mixing of some participants’ personal, public and educational identities has been both intriguing and uncomfortable to watch. There are clearly participants who are much more comfortable sharing of themselves. I am one of those who find it difficult to share myself online, not only because I like to compartmentalise my interaction but also because I worry how different parts will relate to each other.

At the beginning of week 1, I posted a design by Dominique Falla from Instagram saying “We are all part of the same thing”. Indeed this is what I thought, that naïvely we would be discussing education, digital culture and other such related topics. We are discussing relevant content, but at the same time the collapse of context where the personal becomes the educational makes me realise that perhaps we are all part of the same thing and perhaps our discourse outside of the educational supports our performativity within it.

boyd, d. (2013). how “context collapse” was coined: my recollection. Retrieved: 20 January 2017.

Ruitenburg, C. (2007). Discourse, Theatrical Performance, Agency: The Analytic Force of “Performativity” in Education. Philosophy of Education: pp. 260-268